We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Denise Baker. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Denise below.
Hi Denise, thanks for joining us today. How did you get your first job in the field that you practice in today?
In 1998, I started helping other parents navigate the special education process to ensure their child’s needs were being met in school, which can be an intimidating and tedious process for parents and caregivers. Parenting our own son who has unique challenges gave me the experience and confidence to help others in their parenting journey. In 2001, I left a career in the financial services industry to begin a job as a Case Manager Aid in Arizona’s public behavioral health system. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I knew I had life experience and passion for assisting parents. The timing was perfect, as in 2000, the behavioral health system was in the midst of reform that included the enhancement of parent and family involvement in service planning and delivery; which allowed for new positions for parents and caregivers to work in the system, and have their life experiences valued by other professionals. Over the next 18 years, I held many positions including Case Manager, Team Leader, Child & Family Team Coach, Program Manager, Family Involvement Director, and Assistant Training Director. I had the opportunity to be in a leadership role in launching Arizona’s first Peer Parent Support Service that was reimbursed by Medicaid, while working at the Family Involvement Center in Phoenix. From 2005 — 2016 I had the opportunity to present at many national conferences and facilitate trainings in other states, where other peer parent programs were being launched and integrated into state systems. In the beginning of this new career, I felt overwhelmed and doubted my ability to do my job; but I was surrounded by dedicated people wanting to help others, and many of them helped me to learn and grow. I met so many wonderful and skilled people along the way, many of whom became life-long friends and mentors. I learned from my supervisors, co-workers and system leaders who had far more knowledge than I did. I’m beyond happy that I ended up taking that first job as a case aid, assisting with filing and other clerical duties. Twenty years later, I remain confident I made the right career choice.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
Again, the life experience of raising a child with unique challenges led me down a path of experiences and knowledge that I would have never imagined for myself. These experiences brought me to the place of wanting to help others, which eventually led to completing my Bachelor’s Degree in my 40s, and Master’s Degrees in my 50s, becoming a mental health counselor, and eventually opening my own private practice. In my practice, I specialize in helping parents and caregivers work through their own depression, anxiety, grief, guilt, and other difficult emotions, focusing on tools and strategies to care for themselves. I believe that my personal life experiences of being happily married for 35 years, having the privilege of being a step-Mom to my beautiful daughter, and raising our son allow for me to bring a unique perspective to my work as a professional counselor. Specifically, I have learned the value and clinical necessity for parents to not feel judged or blamed for their child’s difficulties in any way, but it happens frequently in mental health and I believe this can be incredibly harmful to families. I provide a strengths-based, respectful approach to all my clients without judgement for any “mistakes,” “lack of consistency” or “follow-through,” or struggles they may be experiencing. The reality of raising a child with unique challenges means that we will not always be “on,” or have the strength or bandwidth to follow-through on a discussed plan of care. That does not mean the parents are not fully invested in their child’s growth, it means the parents are human! As a professional helping parents, I believe we need to accept, understand and embrace this reality as part of the parents’ whole life experience. I take the approach that parents are the experts on their own child’s needs…they certainly know their child/ren best.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
I think remaining in contact with many of the people who helped me early on has been incredibly helpful. I wish I could have stayed in contact with even more people than I have….life happens, covid happened, and people lose contact over time. But I have to say social media (though it has it pros and cons) has been helpful to remain in contact with colleagues, friends and mentors through the years. When I launched my practice in 2019, I reached out to as many people as I could for support, asking for referrals, recommendations, contacts and ideas. I think I was actually shocked at how many people were there to help me, and did so. In fact, they continue to support me. Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Other than training/knowledge, what do you think is most helpful for succeeding in your field?
I think this is an important question, and brings up some of my own vulnerabilities. A couple things I have had to learn quickly to remain successful in doing this work are being self-aware enough to know when I need to take care of myself…knowing when I need to step away for a minute (or two) and breathe fresh air, take a day off, spend extra time with a friend or loved one, do something that brings me joy….you know, the things we teach our clients! Establishing healthy boundaries has been an important part of the big picture of taking care of myself for sure. That has been a life-long effort for me, but I am proud of the progress I have made in that area. Owning and operating my own practice taught me I could not survive without self-care and really protecting my time. It’s okay to say no when I need to!
- Website: https://www.lifequestaz.com/